After 54 years of service, the Model 552 Speedmaster is still one of the sleekest .22 autoloaders available.
I fell in love with the Remington Model 552 Speedmaster .22 the first time I saw it in the Sears and Roebuck window. That was in 1957, when the gun was first introduced and Sears and Roebuck still sold firearms.
One of its features was a bigger deal then than it is today. The tubular magazine fed .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle ammo interchangeably. That was and still is unique among tube-fed autoloaders.
A year after bringing out the Speedmaster, Remington began producing the Model 552GS Gallery Special designed for carnival shooting. Chambered in .22 Short exclusively, this gun had a magazine that could be recharged by pre-loaded tubes the concessionaire kept on hand. A chain was included to fasten the magazine tube to the gallery counter.
Carnival shooting galleries have pretty much gone the way of the dodo, as has the Gallery Special. These days, .22 Shorts cost more than Long Rifles, and .22 Longs have about disappeared from sporting goods shelves.
While the Remington autoloader called to me from the hardware store window, I already owned a bolt-action .22. Teenager-poor, I simply couldn’t afford the self-loader’s $52 price.
That didn’t mean I was out of luck. Unlike many rimfires that have come and gone over the years, the Model 552 has been popular enough to remain in the Remington lineup. Many rifles introduced in the 1950s can’t make that claim. After a nearly half-century wait, a few years ago I finally added a BDL Model 552 Speedmaster to my modest rimfire collection. I can’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but this classic .22 now retails for a recommended price of $618.
The Model 552 is smoothly streamlined. A knob projecting from the left side of the receiver makes cocking easy without taking the rifle from your shoulder. A steel deflector at the rear of the ejection port directs empties downward—not into the face of someone standing to your right.
A gracefully curving shark’s fin front sight blade adds to the gun’s streamlined appearance. The black sight is mounted on a ramp via a pair of screws. A contrasting white dot provides an easy-to-see aiming point.
The rear sight on my Speedmaster looks identical to the open sights mounted on some Remington centerfire rifles. Like the front sight, the rear sight is attached to the barrel by a pair of screws. Loosening them allows the sight to slide forward or back on a set of rails for changing elevation. A single screw lets you move the sight from side to side for windage adjustments. The receiver is grooved for scope mounting.
Unlike bolt-action rifles, the Model 552 requires a little more effort to bare the action for cleaning. Drifting out the pair of pins that anchor the trigger plate assembly allows you to pull the assembly downward and out of the receiver, baring the rifle’s innards. This provides sufficient access for basic cleaning and lubrication. If you’re careful to avoid marring that all-important rifling at the muzzle, it’s possible to pass a cleaning rod patch from muzzle to breech without damaging the rifle’s lands. Then you’ll need to brush away detritus the cleaning rod has deposited from the bore.
If you want to completely disassemble the rifle, allowing you to pass a cleaning rod through the bore chamber-first and do a thorough job of cleaning, that’s a different matter. Full takedown and reassembly isn’t that difficult once you’ve done it a few times. However, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re following the detailed instructions in the owner’s manual.
I’ve owned my Speedmaster for many years, and it’s always been dependable. Cartridge jams are rare, but it happens. Removing the magazine tube allows the round to be easily cleared. Pour out the remaining rounds in the magazine, then shake or gently pry the jammed round free.
For what it’s worth, the rifle didn’t jam even once when I fired more than 300 rounds through it for this article.
I’ve used the Speedmaster primarily for plinking and small game hunting. It’s easy to mount a scope, but doing so spoils the gun’s sleek lines and easy-carrying balance. A scope would help my aging eyes, but the iron sights still allow me to drop game at 50 yards.
Accuracy is very good. In preparing for this article, I took the Speedmaster to my improvised desert range, then fired it from a sandbagged rest at 50 yards. I tried a half-dozen loads ranging from Remington High-Velocity solids to Winchester Super-X Match ammo.
The results were surprisingly uniform. Five-shot groups averaged 1 1/2 inches. The best group — produced by Winchester T-22 standard-velocity ammo — measured just 7/8 inch across. A scope would have shrunk those groups, but that accuracy is more than adequate for dropping small game half a football field away.
Trigger pull of the gun I was evaluating measured 4 1/2 pounds after a slight amount of takeup. While the test gun’s trigger isn’t as crisp as those on several bolt-action .22s I own, it’s still light enough to provide good control.
One reason I like to test rimfires is my penchant for small game hunting. For more than a half-century now, I’ve hunted with an unimaginable variety of firearms. As a young teenager, I favored autoloading .22 rifles. They got the job done, and ammo was inexpensive.
I’ve also tried a number of handguns and more than a few flat-shooting centerfires mounting magnifying scopes.
I’ve come full circle now, and again prefer .22 autoloaders for this kind of sport.
Mine is light enough to carry hours at a time, and it comes to the shoulder quickly. If your first shot doesn’t hit the mark, you have a chance for a quick follow-up.
After 54 years of service, the Model 552 Speedmaster can be considered a true rimfire classic. It’s still the sleekest .22 autoloader available, in my opinion — and it still shoots .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long and .22 Short cartridges interchangeably and without adjustment.
Model: Remington Model 552 BDL Speedmaster
Type: Autoloading rifle
Caliber: .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
Barrel length: 21 inches
Overall length: 40 inches
Safety: Cross bolt
Sights: Open adjustable sights; receiver grooved for scope mounting
Weight: 5 3/4 pounds
Magazine capacity: 15 in .22 LR
Stock: Two-piece American walnut with cut checkering
Length of pull: 13 5/8 inches
Drop at comb: 1 3/8 inches
Drop at heel: 2 5/8 inches
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This article was first printed in the July 2011 edition of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.